10 tips toward profıtability ın stocker operations

Stock your pastures and pocket

Stocker operations are a challenging business. “Stocker cattle are like Gypsies. They may be here based on grass conditions and market conditions today, and they may be gone tomorrow,” said Kansas State extension specialist Dr. Dale Blasi at the NCBA Convention in Nashville earlier this year. Producers with stocker cattle must manage on a daily basis to handle risk that comes with stressed cattle from multiple sources. Follow these 10 tips to reduce risk and build profit in your stocker operation.

  1. Health is the critical factor in stocker operations. Calves arrive at the processing facility shortly after weaning and are under stress. “If we don’t produce a calf in that first 40 to 60 days that can go on and compete in this world, we’ve failed,” said Brad Etheridge of Etheridge Cattle Company in Florida.
  2. Nutrition and cattle-receiving protocols are important factors that contribute to calf health. Use your nutritionist, veterinarian and animal health sales rep to develop a specific protocol for your operation.
  3. Suitable housing for stocker cattle contributes to herd health. “We’ve come to believe it’s very important that these calves be turned out on grass to begin with, not trapped in dirt lots,” Etheridge said. “If we can get them out of the pens, get them spread out where they have some natural shade, get them in their natural environment—I think the success level will be a whole lot higher.”
  4. Closely monitor cattle at least once a day and immediately act on any problems. Etheridge said timeliness is important. “If we see something from a health standpoint that doesn’t look right, it needs to be handled right now, not 10 days from now,” he said.
  5. A solid procurement program ensures cattle stay healthy from the start. Know the history of your cattle and have procurement people that keep health and quality foremost in mind.
  6. Crisis management plans are essential to minimizing losses during extreme weather, serious illness and volatile markets. Prepare for emergencies by planning and notifying all affected parties.
  7. Sound processing and handling facilities are critical to reducing stress and injury. Etheridge advises producers to seek outside help if their equipment is not suitable. He said building a new facility can be expensive, but will pay for itself over time.
  8. Seasonal and yearly cattle markets are factors for profitability. Trading levels differ throughout the year, but seasonal trends stay the same. Understand when is the best time to buy lightweight cattle and know how long to keep them before profitability decreases.
  9. Be aware of available resources such as water and feedstuff. Note what opportunities are available for on-farm feed production and off-farm purchase.
  10. Have strong relationships with your nutritionist, veterinarian and industry peers. Secure knowledgeable and dependable help, both full-time and part-time, and maintain access to quality feed suppliers and transport methods for both cattle and feed.
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